C. Spencer Pompey (1915-2001) was a longtime educator in the segregated schools of Palm Beach County who, in a calm, deliberative manner, made change in his community, the school district and the lives of black children.
He had been a sports coach and social studies teacher primarily at the then-all-black Carver High School in Delray Beach and would later become its principal before retiring in 1979. In his own way, reports say, Mr. Pompey used education and coaching to push for change. He would, for example, give his students extra credit if their parents voted on Election Day.
Originally from Suwanee County, Fla., he had been a longtime resident in Delray Beach and was a co-founder of the Palm Beach County Teachers’ Association for black teachers. He also was one of three black teachers behind a 1942 federal class-action lawsuit—one of the first in the country—against the county school board and its superintendent, protesting a $25-per-month pay disparity with white teachers. They won the case, thanks in part to a young NAACP lawyer named Thurgood Marshall. Attorney Marshall, of course, became in 1967 the first black man appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the 1950’s, Mr. Pompey also calmly protested his hometown’s whites-only beach and, later, pushed for the first organized recreation programs for the city’s black children. He also pressed the city to install streetlights, sidewalks and paved streets in its black neighborhoods.
Over his 40-year career, Mr. Pompey would also be named president of the local NAACP, president of the teachers’ association, a board member of the Delray Beach Historical Society and honorary director of the Palm Beach Junior College Black History Archives.
Delray Beach’s Pompey Park was named in his honor in 1978; the 17.5-acre park serves about 150,000 people a year with dozens of clubs, organizations and civic groups using it monthly. It is not far from the S.D. Spady Cultural Heritage Museum–and is across the street from where the Pompey family had lived.
C. Spencer Pompey died in 2001 at age 85.